Dutch director Paul Verhoeven (Robocop and Total Recall) cast this film with a diligent eye for tits, ass, gleaming teeth, toned muscles, bulging crotches and brows unlined by thought.
He then sampled more shamelessly than Coolio, lifting chunks of Star Wars (1977), Alien (1979), The Terminator (1984), assorted war movies, westerns, Nazi propaganda films and his own fuck-bunny flop, Showgirls (1995), in an unstinting effort to distance the viewer from originality and feeling.
Casper Van Dien plays the studly hero, Johnny Rico, a high school graduate in Argentina who joins the federal army not so much to blow bugs to hell but to get laid.
The object of his lust is Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards), who has already signed up for aviator school.
Johnny’s maths score isn’t good enough for him to make the cut as a starship pilot so he’s shipped off to the mobile infantry camp for bug mop-up, leaving Carmen to the drooling attentions of flyboy Zander Barcalow (Patrick Muldoon) and Johnny to work out his sexual frustration with infantry recruit Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyer), a babe who enjoys ripping off her shirt, and Johnny’s, for mutual chest licking and nipple biting.
You might call these four actors graduates of the Aaron Spelling School of Dramatic Arts. Van Dien, Richards, and Meyer all won credits on Beverly Hills 90210, while Muldoon matriculated at Melrose Place.
To cast the role of Carl Jenkins, who, as the brains of the group, rises to the top of military intelligence, the filmmakers had to venture beyond the stud muffins and Muffys of the Spelling stable to find Neil Patrick Harris, late of Doogie Howser MD.
As you might have guessed, none of the acting requires any heavy lifting.
What is disturbing is the sadistic pleasure that Verhoeven seems to take in showing these pretty young things getting bruised, maimed, pierced and penetrated by insect tentacles.
Johnny’s leg is severed and sewn back on, Zander gets his brain sucked out by a jumbo bug that resembles Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now (1979), and Dizzy chokes up blood while speaking her last words to Johnny: “if I die, it’s OK because I got to have you”.
The film accelerates relentlessly like a video game. Verhoeven’s style of no foreplay and all orgasms is gold for pop culture junkies with attention-deficit disorder.
But the main emphasis is all on squashing bugs.
Visual effects supervisor Phil Tippett and his team work miracles with the creepy crawlies.
Earning an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects, Starship Troopers delivered some of the coolest giant bugs ever put on screen. They buzz, they swarm, heave and attack with such lifelike menace that you want to reach for the Raid.
The actors are no match for these digitised demons, and that’s the trouble. All the wonders in Starship Troopers are computer generated – the rest feels untouched by human hands.
Verhoeven has eliminated such pesky matters as character, emotion and substance, and reduces the plot to a video game face-off between aliens and weapons, with his itchy hand revving the joystick.
Casper Van Dien
Neil Patrick Harris
Sky Marshall Dienes
Sky Marshall Meru